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Eric Bogle – And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda lyrics
"And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda"
- Eric Bogle

Now when I was a young man, I carried me pack, and I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback, well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said son, It's time you stopped rambling, there's work to be done.
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun, and they marched me away to the war.

And the band played Waltzing Matilda, as the ship pulled away from the quay
And amidst all the cheers, the flag-waving and tears, we sailed off for Gallipoli
And how well I remember that terrible day, how our blood stained the sand and the water
And of how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay, we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk he was waiting, he'd primed himself well. He shower'd us with bullets,
And he rained us with shell. And in five minutes flat, he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.

But the band played Waltzing Matilda, when we stopped to bury our slain.
We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs, then we started all over again.
And those that were left, well we tried to survive, in that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive, though around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head, and when I woke up in my hospital bed,
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead. Never knew there was worse things than dyin'.

For I'll go no more waltzing Matilda, all around the green bush far and free
To hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs-no more waltzing Matilda for me.
So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed, and they shipped us back home to Australia.
The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane, those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay, I looked at the place where me legs used to be.
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me, to grieve, to mourn, and to pity.

But the band played Waltzing Matilda, as they carried us down the gangway.
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared, then they turned all their faces away
And so now every April, I sit on me porch, and I watch the parades pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march, reviving old dreams of past glories
And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore. They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, what are they marching for? And I ask myself the same question.

But the band plays Waltzing Matilda, and the old men still answer the call,
But as year follows year, more old men disappear. Someday no one will march there at all.
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by that billabong, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?


"Matilda" - the backpack and associated gear used by livestock drovers and prospecters
In remote areas of the Australian outback.
"Swag" - canvas sleeping bag
"Billabong" - creek or estuary, generally with an outlet to the sea and containing more or less brackish water.

Historical Note:
The Gallipoli Campaign (April 25, 1915-January 8, 1916),
A major land and sea operation of World War I, in which
British, French, Australian, and New Zealand forces
Unsuccessfully attempted an invasion of Turkey.
The action was confined to the Dardanelles Strait
And the tip of the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Peninsula near
Istanbul. The purpose of the campaign, devised by British
Munitions minister David Lloyd George, first lord of the
Admiralty Winston Churchill, General Herbert H. Kitchener,
And Admiral Sackville H. Carden, was to open up a new
Theater of war as an alternative to the stalemate in
France, to relieve Turkish pressure on Russian forces
In the Caucasus, and, by gaining control of Istanbul
And the straits, to provide a direct link with Russia
Via the Black Sea. This campaign is also significant
For Australians in that it marked the first time a major
Australian military force was commanded by Australian,
Instead of English, officers.

What initially was to be exclusively a naval operation
Failed in February 1915 when several British and French
Ships were damaged by floating mines. A land invasion was
Then decided on, but it was not begun until late April.
An amphibious landing at that time was met with heavy
Resistance by the Turks. Excessive caution and timorous
Leadership by the British commander, Sir Ian Hamilton,
Resulted in several lost initiatives. Little headway
Was made beyond the several beachheads. In early August,
After three months of stalemate and stagnation on the
Beaches, a new major offensive was begun. Once again,
However, the excessive caution and indifferent leadership
Of the British command offset the effect of heavy
Reinforcements. The Turkish forces, on the other hand, were
Inspired by the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (Kemal Atatьrk,
Later president of Turkey) and the skill of their German
Commander, Otto Liman von Sanders. After a few more months
Of stalemate, Hamilton was replaced by Sir Charles Monro,
Who was sent to evaluate the situation. Monro recommended
Evacuation, and the allied forces were withdrawn in December
And January. British casualties were 205,000 out of 410,000;
The French sustained a rate of 47,000 out of 79,000; Turkish,
250,000 to 300,000 out of 500,000. The fiasco badly
Stained the reputations of Churchill, Hamilton, and Kitchener.
Despite it's overall failure, however, the Gallipoli campaign
Weakened the Turks enough to facilitate the British seizure
Of Palestine in 1917. The action also distracted the Germans
From a plan they had in 1915 to begin another offensive in France.

Lyrics taken from /lyrics/e/eric_bogle/and_the_band_played_waltzing_matilda.html

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And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda meanings Post my meaning

  • U
    + 12
    As much as I loathe war I have nothing but admiration for all the diggers who fought for australia and new zealand. To say that this song causes death by boredom only shows a complete lack of respect for men who never had a choice about going to war. Anzac day is not a celebration of war either. I for one try to attend the march each year to show my respect for these great heroes.
    My wife's father was conscripted for vietnam and the attrocities he went through were very rarely told to others. He lost his life on return from a blood clot of all thingsa after breaking his ankle. A very brave well respected man whose story has just been released in a book on vietnam.
    This song stirs feelings of pity in me for the soldiers and I find it very hard to sing along to. Please show respect when posting about things you clearly will never have the courage to endure yourself.
    Add your reply
  • U
    + 8
    The song cries out for the "powers that be" to recognize the sacrifice of each soldier and their loved ones upon their return from battle. They leave in glory bolstered by cheers and well wishes and return changed forever in many ways. Here we are a century later and we still here songs echoing the same refrain (tom russell band. "veteran's day" - johnny cash. "the big battle) and we read of veterans still fighting their governments for fair compensation. Whether these soldiers are conscripted or simply volunteer to serve their country, we need to be vigilant and make sure our governments are recognizing in concrete ways the suffering of our soldiers in service to their countries. This song touches the very heart of the individual soldier. Each has his/her own story.
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  • U
    + 5
    The Contributors Notes above are not exactly correct.
    A "swag" consisted of all ones belongings or goods rolled up in a ground sheet - tied behind your saddle or slung over your back.
    A "swagman" (the subject of the referenced song Waltzing Matilda) was a hobo, itinerent or unemployed traveller in rural Australia who carried his swag, or "humped his bluey", or went "waltzing Matilda" (here his swag is jokingly referred to as his female companion, Matilda).
    A "billabong" is the classical ox-bow lake. That is, a bend in the river which, through erosion and the cutting of a new course of the river, leaves an isolated, and typically curved, body of fresh water in the river valley/flood plain. In the arid parts of Australia, the rivers and billabongs are rare sources of fresh water, shade (hence fire wood) and wildlife seeking water, and so were prime camping spots for wandering swagmen.
    Add your reply
  • U
    + 4
    Eric Bovenkerk, the song is not American, but Australian (well, Eric Bogle was originally Scottish, but he immigrated to Aus). All the slang is Australian. It tells the story of Australia's involvement in ww1, the first war Australia actively fought in. "Walzing Matilda" is a classic Australian folk song, and has been referred to as "the unofficial national anthem of Australia". This song riffs off that classic ballad.
    I would also note that Gallipoli and the "ANZAC Legend" is far from forgotten, and it comprises an essential and prominent place in the Australian national identity (whether this is a good or bad thing is debatable).
    Incidentally, I agree that Joan Baez does a beautiful and moving cover of the song.
    1 reply
  • w
    Will Do
    Several years ago, I spent some time in South Australia, actually in the outback north of Port Augusta. I was familiar with this song before this, sung by John McDermott. this is one of my favorite songs, an anti-war song that actually explains how horrible war is, especially adding in the egos and hubris of the leaders/generals. Remembrance Day is still honored and if someone says something bad about ANZACS in a bar, it's a good way to start a fight. I think Gallipoli helped establish that OZ was nobody's stepchild and should control her own military. by the way, the movie, Gallipoli, is my favorite Mel Gibson movie and does a fairly good job of establishing the mentality of how countries were so quick to make their young men cannon fodder in the War to End Wars.
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  • U
    These words mean that the day was so horrible that many of the brave soldiers who were young men shed blood at the scene. This says how the soldiers who fought were horribly killed as in the sentence it says, "the blood stained the sand and water." Meaning that they died on the sand and the water as they were shot which would make them bleed.
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  • e
    The song is so full of history. At first I listened to Joan Baez who sings this song wonderfully not to mention her instrumental backing, but could not interpret the lyrics due to american slang, so it brought me here and found out, what this song meant to be about a war long forgotten and about politicians and power. Eric bogle sang it as it was those days. And he did. Thank you, eric bovenkerk from amsterdam holland.
    1 reply
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    • U
      + 12
      As much as I loathe war I have nothing but admiration for all the diggers who fought for australia... Read more →
    • U
      + 8
      The song cries out for the "powers that be" to recognize the sacrifice of each soldier and their... Read more →

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